An Excessive Amount of Literature

Every year around April, the Friends of the Public Library holds a massive, week-long used book sale in the local mall. I know this because I came across it completely by accident last year, and consequently staggered home with 25 lbs of books and the lingering feeling of having been hit by a book mobile.

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Last year’s books. I feel like that sideways one in the middle was something I was embarrassed about, but now I can’t remember what it was.

Accordingly, when April rolled around again this year Facebook had the common decency to remind me of what I had posted about a year prior, which was buying an excessive amount of books at said book sale. I immediately checked the mall’s website and discovered I had a tremendously long wait of three whole weeks before it was time.

On Monday, the dawning day of the book fair, I showed up five minutes before the mall opened and prowled like a cat in front of the doors, hissing at passerby that looked like a threat.

I needn’t have worried; the glorious thing about a large library book sale is that a) there’s frequently multiple copies of the same book, 2) no one really knows what they’re looking for until they see it and can’t plan ahead, and δ) everyone has different tastes in books anyway. And fortunately, showing up at 10:00am on a Monday meant I was mostly competing with nice retired people who weren’t there to aggressively snatch books the way I was.

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Table one of many.

I’ve never been able to give away books, unless I picked them up by chance and they turned out to be incredibly incompatible with my brain (I’m looking at you, The Martian). As such, even now, I’m envisioning loading all these books I’ve gathered in the last year and a half into a moving van to haul to wherever it is I live next.

That’s the problem with growing up in a household that had a certain reverence for books. Now I can only think of them in that high fantasy “BOOKS ARE MAGIC” mindset, which is often untrue and highly inconvenient, but I suppose there are worse things to hoard. Like garbage, or slunk pelts.

With book prices drastically varying from $1 to $3, I had to be very picky naturally bought any book that looked worth having. I followed a very complicated strategy:

  • Buy any book that I had read before and enjoyed, but didn’t own
  • Buy any book that I’d heard good things about but never read, such as New York Times bestsellers or classics I hadn’t gotten around to
  • Buy any book that just looked vaguely interesting
  • Buy any book

And so I came back with a modest nineteen used books. It’s very handy that I have a nice reading chair in my room now.

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While I was in line to buy them a man complimented me on my “Great Gatsby” reusable shopping bag. I had to admit I’d never read it and just bought the whole book-themed bag collection at Barnes and Noble. “Huh,” he said. “I thought it was required reading in all high schools.” Cough.

Now, of course, I’m facing the problem of running out of space (again) in my room. My bookshelves will probably house this batch of books with a little rearranging, but the next batch will overrun everything and soon I’ll be just like that nice couple in that Hoarders episode that had a house like Flourish and Blotts.

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I don’t have any more room to expand outwards, but I suppose I could stack another bookcase on top of that first bookcase. And then maybe a miniature bookcase on that tall bookcase, and a corner bookcase for the corner, and then I can just move into a library.

But fortunately it’s all over and I can begin methodically working my way through the new books, at least until next week, when an entirely new book sale begins at the other local shopping center. I regret nothing but my rapidly emptying wallet.

Valentine’s Day Cometh

If there’s one holiday I’ve never had much cause to think about before, it’s Valentine’s Day.

The reason for this is that my parents, the hopeless romantics that they are, preferred to save money instead of buying each other’s love, so Valentine’s Day was never celebrated at our house. When I took the nanny job and moved to the east coast, I was surprised to find that my employer’s celebrated every holiday, including Valentine’s Day, and gave gifts liberally to their nanny for each and every one.

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This is from last year. I spent a while just staring at it, as if it were one of those weird prehistoric-looking beetles wandering around my room.

But I’d never been in a relationship that coincided with Valentine’s Day, so it was never a holiday that stayed on my radar for long.

And then, weirdly enough, I started going out with James- have been for a month and a half, in fact- and Valentine’s Day became a looming possibility. I prepared my statement early.

“There are some girls out there,” I said to James a few weeks ago, “who say they don’t want anything for Valentine’s Day and then get upset when they aren’t given anything. I’m not like that. I genuinely don’t want anything for Valentine’s Day. Nothing. No, really.”

“Great,” said James cheerfully. “Got it. I’m going to get you something for Valentine’s Day anyway.”

“Ugh,” I said.

So for the first time in my life I’ve had to seriously consider getting something for somebody on Valentine’s Day. This should be easy when you haven’t been dating someone for long; you go into the store, you grab a mass-produced box of chocolate, and you’re done.

So when I was in Walmart the other day, the very subtle decorations reminded me that I should really be picking something romantic up.

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If I hadn’t walked past their eighteen red-lined aisles I might have completely forgotten.

The problem is that Valentine’s Day is meant for women and 2nd grade classrooms. Everything is cute and frilly and so terribly feminine. Oh sure, sometimes an effort is made to reduce the girliness factor of the product, but it’s usually unsuccessful.

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It’s… well… they tried.

So I spent a whole fifteen minutes of my life walking up and down aisle after blood-red aisle, wondering if they made a Valentine’s Day treat that looked cool for guys. (They don’t. They don’t make anything that looks cool for girls, either. Valentine’s Day is very uncool.) I was about to give up and buy a generic box of chocolates, when something on the next aisle over caught my eye:

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Nerd cups! Yeah!

James and I met playing D&D, so geeky things are the way to go. James is also a guy, living with a guy roommate, which means they have approximately three real plates and two wine glasses between them. It might have been kinder to buy him a whole dining set and some tasteful throw pillows, but a mug for his destitute kitchen was a stepping stone.

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There. Valentine’s Day is prepared for.

Now all I have to worry about it what my employers are giving me for Valentine’s Day. And Easter.

‘Tis the Seasonal Mayhem

I could breathe through both nostrils today, from which I must conclude that the end of this horribly stubborn cold is in sight. I’ve been sick for eleven days now, and it’s been terrible, because I haven’t been able to sing a single Christmas song without sounding like a frog. And not even that frog that could sing really well.

The beginning of the end of the cold means that I have to actually get up and start being productive.

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Apparently sitting in Starbucks all day with eggnog chai and Overwatch is not “productive” or “conducive to a social life”.

And one of those things that I was putting off, besides flossing my teeth and finalizing my healthcare plan, was putting together the last of the Christmas presents.

My immediate family was already taken care of, but my employers very nicely give me gifts on Christmas and my birthday, and it’s only decent that I purchase something for them. And for their three to six children. And somehow, this year, I’m participating in two secret Santa gift exchanges. So in addition to the three to six children, I had four more gifts to put together.

Thankfully, none of these people read my blog, so I can post what I’m getting them.

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Employers are hard. As it turns out, it’s moderately difficult to buy things for your bosses, because they’re richer than you and they’re not quite your friends, even though you’re friendly with them. I decided to put together gift bags.

  • Two coffees. Or “cawfees” if you say it like my employers do. They like Starbucks and they like coffee.
  • Two chocolates. Because that’s a good default gift.
  • Two nice, Christmas-y candles. Also a good default gift.
  • Two scarves. I tried to buy what I thought they might wear; they’re both very conservative in their dressing, so I went for that “rainy day in a post office” look.
  • Two different Christmas ornaments. Mrs. Parent got a cute little reindeer because the Christmas aisle in Target was low on stock, and Mr. Parent got a mustache, because, wait for it… he has a mustache. It will be a hit with the kids, anyway.

In my head, this is thoughtful yet impersonal enough to be gifts for your employers whose house you happen to live in. I mean, probably.

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Secret Santa gift #1 had to be a bit smaller, because we had a limited budget to work with. Contents include:

  • The same scarf that Mrs. Parent is getting, although the owner of this one will wear it brighter, somehow.
  • More chocolate!
  • A littler, mild candle. I give mild candles to people I don’t know quite as well, in case they have some kind of reaction to strong smells. I understand this, as I am frequently forced to kill anyone who gets me a cinnamon-scented monstrosity.
  • Two little sets of dangly earrings that I didn’t think to pull out. This lady always wears dangly earrings. I figure she must not have cats.
  • Also that box with a bow. Most of these items will be stuffed into it.

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Also, these things, for secret Santa #2. Just… just turn your head sideways, if you would. It’s far too difficult to rotate this thing and upload it again. If there’s a way to rotate a picture while in WordPress, I’d love to hear it.

  • Two absolutely outrageous earrings for an outrageous lady.
  • Two boxes of Lord of the Rings flavored tea. I buy the Bilbo Baggins Breakfast Blend for myself on the regular.
  • Chocolate. Creatively.
  • Another mild candle.

These things, in addition to the three to six identical extreme dot-to-dot books I am buying for the boys, mercifully conclude my Christmas shopping. It somehow doesn’t feel right to be doing this now; in Idaho we have snow by now. Here, it’s 50 degrees and I’m running my errands without a jacket, and this strikes me as “Halloween is coming up” weather. C’est la vie.

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Bonus: I can’t just sit in this house. I am a perpetual jungle gym.

I’m Not Thrifty

When I lived in Idaho, I lived near dozens of thrift stores full of cheap secondhand clothing of reasonable quality.

(“Near”, of course, meaning “not quite an hour’s drive from”. This is about how close we were to everything in the wilderness.)

Because we were poor as muck, we did almost all of our shopping at thrift stores. Save for a fresh pack of Target underwear now and then, all dresses, jeans, jackets, shoes, and most books were bought at Goodwill, Value Village, and a myriad other smaller thrift stores. Sure, maybe we’d come out of there with clothing baggy enough to make the homeless cringe, but we bought a year’s supply of the terrible clothing for only $20!

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Look at all these colors that I, as a redhead with a redheaded complexion, cannot wear!

But when I moved to the east coast, I was horrified to discover there was only one thrift store near me, and it was filled with the sort of people who looked like they might murder you for your drug store earrings, so I avoided it. With my newly-earned riches I bought my clothes at Walmart and Forever 21, but I was still moderately scandalized every time I had to pay $15 for a shirt. A shirt.

(Of course, “near me” in city terms is “less than half an hour from me.” You can go fifty miles in fifty minutes in the country, but it takes the same to go twenty-five miles around here.)

Fortunately, my board game meetup group came to my rescue again in the form of “Jade,” a snazzily-dressed woman whose intelligence is slightly terrifying. “We should go shopping together!” she exclaimed last Wednesday. “I know you’re on a budget and I know all the thrift stores around here. It’ll be fun!”

So we went thrift-storing.

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Ah, nothing like that thrift store musk!

I’m going on a year on the east coast now and I had forgotten how great the good thrift stores can be. This was only another Goodwill, but we went during the weekly tag sale where half the items were a dollar, and it was practically heaven in a shopping basket.

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Do YOU need a band saw?! Goodwill has you covered!

My idea that I was going to spend only twenty dollars quickly went out the window. Not because of the clothing, mind you, but because as we were going through the household section I looked up and saw a “new” bread machine, still in the box.

Now, I’m living in one room in my employer’s house. I don’t need a bread machine. Basically no one needs a bread machine these days, because you can buy pre-sliced bread for a dollar at the local grocery store. There was no reason at all for me to get this bread machine.

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This is what poor decision-making looks like, kids.

I got the bread machine.

That’s the problem with being raised by a mother who always made her own bread in a bread machine. You start thinking you need one too, even though your bread will be easier if it’s from the store and more aesthetically pleasing if you craft it by hand.

Whatever. I have a bread machine now. And I fully intend to use it at least twice before I give it away to a thrift store myself.

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Also purchased: A small pile of blues, browns, grays, purples, and greens, the only colors I can wear.

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A small Japanese tea set which I washed twice because I’m always afraid the last owner died due to poison.

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Books to add to my children’s book library. The Spiderwick book will be kept in my room, they’re close enough to burning me as a witch as it is.